The first three episodes of the six-part Netflix documentary series Harry & Meghan, released on Thursday, feature archival footage and interviews with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their friends. They detail the relationship of the couple who have since left their roles as senior members of the British royal family and moved to the USA.
The pair said they wanted to make the series to “tell their side of the story.” The show covers a lot of ground in the first three episodes, moving more or less chronologically and stopping before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Viewers are introduced to the couple and told the story of how they met and dated in secret for as long as possible to avoid the glare of the media.
Race-related harassment is an issue
The issue of race is taken up significantly in the documentary, including the racial abuse Meghan explains having suffered. “Obviously now everyone is aware of my race because they made it such an issue when I went to the UK,” she says.
“But before that, most people didn’t treat me like a Black woman, so that talk didn’t have to happen for me,” adds Meghan. Her mother, Doria, recounts telling her during the initial negative media coverage: “This is about race,” noting that her daughter at first did not want to believe it.
Meanwhile, Harry recalls telling his family about the unfair element of the media’s treatment of Meghan and how they saw it as “a rite of passage” that must be undertaken by any new member of the royal family. Prince Harry did not agree. “But the difference here is the race element,” he says. At the time, Harry also put out a statement condemning the media for race-related harassment.
In the third episode, he also points out the royal family “sometimes being part of the problem rather than part of the solution” when it comes to racism in the UK. “And there is a huge level of unconscious bias.”
On the other hand, Harry & Meghan also mentions some of the positive aspects of having a woman of colour married into the royal family. As photographer, entrepreneur and social activist Misan Harriman points out in the documentary, many people of color in the UK felt they were finally being seen when the engagement was announced.
Another feature of the first three episodes that will undeniably attract attention is Meghan’s comments on life with the royal family. She describes how Queen Elizabeth II was the first member of the royal family she met and how that first encounter was “surreal.” She says she only found out she would meet her shortly beforehand. She recalls Harry asking her: “You know how to curtsy, right? And I just thought it was a joke.”
She also describes being in ripped jeans and being barefoot when she first met Will and Kate. “I’m a hugger, I’ve always been a hugger and I didn’t realise that was jarring for a lot of Brits,” says Meghan before describing that she was surprised that the “formality on the outside carried through on the inside” — perhaps a dig at Kate and Will.
Harry says the royal family’s initial impression of Meghan which was positive, was tainted by stereotypes about American actors, namely that the relationship “wouldn’t last long.” Yet there are few overtly critical comments about the royal family in the first three episodes. Ahead of the documentary’s release, there has been speculation that King Charles could strip them of their royal titles, as a source told The Daily Beast.
Members of the Royal family declined to be part of the series, according to a statement at the beginning of the documentary. Yet this has come under fire, as a number of UK media including The Independent have made claims that Buckingham Palace officials and members of the royal family were not given the opportunity to react to the criticism of the film.
Harry finds a woman just like his mom
Significantly, Harry makes it clear he has found a woman who closely resembles his mother, the late Princess Diana, for her compassion and care for others. “So much of what Meghan is and how she is is so similar to my mum. She has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her.”
From the get-go, viewers learn about Harry’s deep mistrust of the media and his challenges of growing up in the spotlight. He explains what it felt like to grow up being followed by paparazzi. In one scene, we see archival footage of Princess Diana confronting photographers on a skiing holiday. The doc also explains how the media scrutiny intensified after his mother’s death.
A significant part of the documentary focuses on the couple’s relationship under media scrutiny, which intensified after it went public thanks to a tabloid exposé in October 2016. Prince Harry describes feeling disturbed by seeing Meghan go through what he and his mother had experienced, and described the situation of more social media abuse going online, saying, “it is basically the hunter versus the prey.”
Meghan describes being surrounded by UK media at her home in Toronto and how neighbors were paid to put a livestream camera in her yard. She also discusses how it felt to have her life splattered all over the tabloids.
The documentary touches on a number of unethical techniques tabloids use to get stories — including paying sources to give fake information. It also discusses how Meghan’s own father may have staged photos in return for money and how she has since lost her relationship with him.
World media reacts
Reactions to the documentary have so far been mixed. Many fans support the couple for telling their story, but critics are just as vocal on Twitter. Germany’s main tabloid, Bild, writes that “The royals should prepare for the worst right now,” but many other international news outlets weren’t particularly impressed by the content of the documentary.
France’s Le Figaro said that the film is “hollow,” “meaningless” and contains “no startling revelations.” UK newspaper The Guardian described the series as “very much a one-sided PR effort, with no critical or dissenting voices about the couple’s behavior or any tough questioning.”
British TV commentator Piers Morgan tweeted that it was “worse than Keeping Up With the Kardashians — Something I didn’t think was humanly possible.” The next three episodes of the documentary series will be released on December 15.
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Originally published at tribune.com.pk